Saturday, February 16, 2013

How I define Inspirational Historical Romance

For the writer who is penning inspirational historical romance:

Inspirational historical romance is meant to touch the heart of a reader and to remind them there is hope in our most challenging moments. As the Bible says, there is nothing new under the sun. Historicals are more than stories with dates and events. Historicals are meant to take the reader back to a time and place where people went through things we go through today. We write it to entertain, yes. But our novels should also enhance what readers know historically. 

Our books should be a safe haven from the secular novels that glorify the flesh and push lust rather than self-sacrificing love. Faith is an element, and a part of our characters lives, without preaching a sermon. Inspirational historical fiction allows the reader to 'see' the sermon, rather than 'hear' one.

What readers want:

They want the love between the hero and the heroine to be from the heart as they face adversity. In most secular historical romances lust is often the foundation of the characters’ relationships and the conquest of the hero to conquer the heroine. Readers of inspirational fiction want the absence of explicit sexual content and offensive language. Readers are looking for stories of hope.

Secular historical romances leave out the spiritual. They are written for readers who do not want a faith element in the books they read. That sums up the difference in a nutshell—the absence of the spiritual. 

I do wish more secular readers would give Christian fiction a try, especially historicals. In days long ago, people were more religious than we are led on to believe. Even in romances such as Sense & Sensibility and Jane Eyre, there are spiritual aspects that are carefully woven into the stories. Colonel Brandon is compassionate and caring, so much so that his love for Marianne is withheld so she may find her own happiness. He is self-sacrificing, and in the end it is his love that is shown true, opposed to Willoughby who is a lustful, self-serving man. 
In Jane Eyre we have a loving, virtuous heroine, whose challenge on many levels is her feelings for the  tortured Mr. Rochester. It is obvious Jane’s purpose is to rescue Rochester from depression, self-loathing, and deception.  Instead of living with him, she leaves him, and he is confronted with his depravity. 

Not long ago I read a blog by a Christian man slamming Christian romances, warning girls should not read them because they fill their heads with expectations that are not reality. This may be true for some romances that are dulled down from adversity, where everything is perfect and sweet. But not for all. Many Christian novels address the realities of life that people face today so readers can relate to the character's dilemma. Perhaps there are not as many as readers would hope. This is where readers come in.

 Tell us what you want. 
What issues would you like to see Christian novelists address? 
What is it that keeps you engaged and turning the pages? 
Authors will listen. Let's hope publishers will as well.


Olivia Stocum said...

I like this post Rita. And I often feel there is some discrepancy between what people are telling me they would like to see in an inspirational romance and what is actually out there. It seems more readers are looking for characters they can identify with. Characters that make mistakes bigger than their own. It gives them the chance to see that YES even they can be forgiven. And yet, the shelves seem dominated by stories that (I sat this with care) are a tad on the 'fluffy' side. My greatest fear with my own writing is that I will be forced to self-pub in order to stand by my convictions. BTW, I love your series because it is so real. That you have published it traditionally, gives me hope.

Rita Gerlach said...

Part of the problem is publishers' guidelines. Some, not all, will be very restrictive of what kind of fiction their authors turn in, and that's where the 'fluff' comes in. I was fortunate enough to have a publisher that let me write what was in my heart and don't mind their authors stretching past the sugar and spice and everything nice and neat tomes.

As far as self-publishing goes, the view in the industry is changing, especially with Amazon's KDP program for authors. There are many authors republishing their books that have been out of print, like me, Loree Lough, Lena Dooley, and Robin Lee Hatcher. You don't have to pay to publish on Amazon and their program is excellent and author friendly. You just need to have your book edited well and a good cover, then work the program to your advantage.

If you have any questions about it, I'll be happy to answer them if I can. I will tell you this, my novel 'The Rebel's Pledge' is doing just as well in ebook as my other books, and I'm getting a check every month.

journojohnson said...

I love the photos, Rita and heartily agree with all your sentiments. I hope my historical will carry a message in it too, although still struggling with the 'show not tell' aspect of novel writing. Too used to journalism I think.

Rita Gerlach said...

There's a really good book on writing that I won't part with called 'Between the Line' by Jessica Morrell. Perhaps you can learn a lot from her about show not tell. It was an area I had a hard time with at first. But if you can practice the basics you will get the hang of it. Instead of 'she angry', saying something like, 'she balled her fist and hit her pillow' or 'she picked up his letter and tore it into tiny pieces.
Grammar girl has a page on this.

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